Introduction to a Chimney Inspection

Fire has been around since the dawning of time. What has changed throughout history is the way we use and harness its power. With an open fire, there are always precautions that need to be taken but built up of soot; debris and creosote are none of them. It wasn’t until we discovered how to enclose fire in a box and vent it up through a hole in the roof around 1200 did we discover that burning wood could lead to a series of issues that if not taken seriously, could harm or even kill people.

While there are few statics available in the early adaption of fireplaces and stoves used in the home we do know there are cultures that built kitchens away from the main residence due to an eventual fire that would take place. Once the kitchen burnt down they could be easily rebuilt with no harm done to the house. This says a lot about the lack of safety in these types of early home appliances.

In many countries including the United Kingdom, young boys were used to clean the flue by crawling or climbing into it. Many of these boys were injured and killed by being trapped or suffered the consequences of breathing the toxic fumes. This was a common practice up until 1875 when the chimney sweep trade was regulated in the UK and up until the turn of the century in the US. The invention of chimney sweep brushes helped lead the way to a much safer way to clean the chimney. However, each chimney sweep could make up their own rules and regulations as to what constituted an inspection and cleaning until the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA.org) voted in a standard for chimney, fireplaces, vents, and solid fuel-burning appliances in 1967.

Although the code and standard has been revised as technology changes in the industry, it standardized the inspection and cleaning process throughout the trade. That was not only good for consumers but also for the chimney sweeps. They now had and continue to have guidelines and industry standards that must be met when servicing the consumer’s appliance.

Within these guidelines the NFPA has divided the inspection process into three distinctive levels. The level of inspection is determined by the circumstances surrounding the appliance and move from Level 1 up to Level 3 and are progressively more comprehensive in nature.

Part 2 of this series will take a look at the basic Level 1 inspection.